What Happens to Your Family if You Die Without a Will?
If you or a family member dies without a will, the court will need to step in to determine who are the legal heirs of the estate.
The process involves the court hiring an attorney who determines if you had a spouse or any children. If you or a family member don’t have either of those relatives, the attorney attempts to determine if the deceased person had siblings and/or parents who are still living.
Determination of Heirship
The attorney is paid out of the deceased’s estate to investigate the facts that could have easily been answered by any of your living relatives. Because there isn’t a legal will that identifies your heirs, the attorney cannot simply take the word of the person who applies to the Court. The Determination of Heirship is usually the minimum that one can expect if a family member dies without a will in Texas.
Administration of the Estate
People who die and have bills to be paid will likely have the court undertake a process called Administration of the Estate. This happens when the deceased also owns real estate. During the administration of the estate, the court will use the laws of Texas to divide up your estate. In many cases, this division won’t be what you would have chosen or what you intended.
Of course, the exact outcome of an Administration of the Estate depends on a person’s particular circumstances. However, the court will provide each heir with an interest in your estate whether they are your children, your spouse or, in some strange cases, your spouse’s family. They will all have to share your estate which can result in some challenging feelings.
The Cost of Dying Without a Will
In addition to the court’s involvement in determining which of your heirs is entitled to which portion of your estate, there is also an additional expense. If your estate is fairly simple, the fees for the extra attorney might be as little as $500. More complex cases could result in additional attorney’s fees of between $1,000 and $1,500 or more.
If you die without a will, the entire process of finding heirs and distributing your estate according to Texas law takes longer. The takeaway here is to understand the importance of drafting a will so that your estate is handled the way you desire. Otherwise, the court must default to the Texas laws that relate to this process and that are currently on the books.
In summary, take the time to get your will and estate planning needs completed.